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"People aren't supposed to look back. I'm certainly not going to do it, anymore.”
Within the first pages of Slaughterhouse-Five, a book about war, time travel (hopping from past to future to present), and love, Kurt Vonnegut gives us this ironic and wry 14-word jewel. It's immediately followed by this:
"I've finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun. This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.”
Of course, the book IS fun and poignant and beautiful. It's clear Vonnegut was playfully referencing Lot's wife who was punished for, literally, looking back.
Tending to the Work of Love
Tending to the Work of Love
Despite the pollen, I love spring. Our house sits on a very small yard with little grass. The rock-lined paths and mulched areas are overtaken with weeds, sprouting acorns, and creeping vines.
Today I decided to pull up what I can, and to not overdo. Patience: this work will take a while.
I couldn’t help but think about the less glamorous tasks of gardening as metaphor to doing the work of love. Sounds strange: the work of love. Yet, love is work. Whether for a person or a group of people whose inequitable rights and welfare stir you to plant some seeds of action.
If you’re new to social justice work, welcome! If you’re thinking about it, I hope this is helpful:
- Expect to pull a lot of weeds and enjoy whatever’s blooming (or budding) in the present moment. I’m involved in two small non-profits; weeds of resistance (community voices are sometimes opposed to the work we do) but also weeds of disorganization—and sometimes contention—within. Take time to celebrate what YOU are giving and the small wins of your collective.
Looking Past Our Gold
Nothing Gold Can Stay starts simply with "Nature's first green is gold”. Frost's stoic little poem does more than remind me that every beautiful thing is temporal. I'm also reminded that we each have the ability to create new (golden) Edens.
When writing Getting Ourselves Back to the Garden this week, several things (truths?) surfaced for me. In case these could be helpful or prompt some reflections of your truths, I'll share three takeaways here:
- Just because we can't go back to what was our "golden age” shouldn't stop us from pursuing what could be. If gold can't stay, we can find new gold by planting ourselves among people and projects we care about.
Five Fingers, Open Hand
Not everyone wants to deal with conflict in the first place, let alone listen to a different perspective. Especially one that goes against their beliefs or ruffles their worldview.
Those who resist having conversations with others outside their "tribe" are not stupid or wrong. One thing seems clear, though: The people who are least willing to have conversations with people outside their tribe stand to benefit the most.
The benefits? Less anger, stress, anxiety, and worry that can lessen their physical and psychic pain. Also more tolerance, some understanding, and a bit more empathy helps remind us that we belong to one another. We really are connected. One Tribe.
Here are five tips, reposted from a longer Medium article I wrote this month.
Love is Patient: Start With Yourself
Being patient with myself is not a strength - yet.
To give myself a fraction of forbearance and kindness I try to extend to others feels indulgent. And I don't consistently do a good job of being patient with other people. (In a future post I'll share my shame about how I reacted at an Athens restaurant recently.) But, 99% of the time, my patience is directed toward others.
My self-patience epiphany arrived yesterday when I FINALLY finished the last edits on a Medium article about what makes a good ally.
I knew I wanted to write about social justice work and what it means to be a white ally more than two weeks ago. I started on it immediately and worked no less than 50 hours on three different angles, which turned out to be this article.
To keep this blog brief, here's the gist:
Be Selfish, Share Your Sunshine
Take a moment. Think about what kindness means - to you, in your life.
Not nice. Nice is polite and agreeable. Nice says pleasant things and tries to avoid (or ignore) unpleasantness. Some very nice people live by "if you can't say anything nice about someone, say nothing at all." They may smile a lot.
Being nice is not a bad thing. It need not be superficial. We could all use more manners, choose our words and actions more thoughtfully, talk less and smile more.
But kindness (did you think about what it means to you?) is deeper. It has connective tissue. It is more personal. Generous, considerate. Affectionate, warm, even loving.
While each of us is attracted to different traits and behaviors, kindness is appreciated by just about everyone, young and old.
This is The Time
This is the time: the week I relish and rue. Precious days between Christmas Day and New Year's when SO much seems possible but for my own hangups. It's not that I don't believe in learning, growth and change; I do. In fact, I love helping others see themselves differently through their own writing and other artistic, authentic expressions.
What's my hangup? Here are at least four in case they help you (and me) see that they are thin, tired and even treacherous.
- It's too late. That ship has sailed. You'll be 60 next year.
- In order to be successful you must sacrifice sleep, sanity, and say yes to everything.
- There's a reason you've not made more progress… you're not cut out for _________.
- You're a jack of all trades; master of none.
How to Kill Connection
When we talk, we repeat what we already know.
When we listen we learn.
The Dalai Lama's quote is a bit longer, but this is its 14-words-for-love essence. Of course, speaking isn't the issue. It's what, how, when, where, and how often we speak.
Six months ago, I co-led a community circle as part of restorative practices training. After being paired with Sasha, 25 years my junior yet more experienced in social justice work, she asked if I wanted some feedback. I did.
Who Are We Really Judging?
So, I want to stay focused this week on how illusory "image" is (last week's blog) and how easy it is to fool ourselves about who we are judging when we judge other people's behavior.
I ran across a related Medium article by Alex Mathers. Several lines spoke directly to me: "We live in a 'swipe left, discard it if it doesn't work' culture. One bad word uttered by another, and they are cast out without a moment's reflection."
Recently, Kevin Hart declined his dream job of hosting the 2019 Academy Awards. Suddenly his 2011 homophobic tweets were retweeted. Admittedly, I'm a fan of Hart's movies and stand up I've seen. Admittedly, I don't know him beyond his comedic persona.
I think there's something really important to reflect on - whether it's Hart or any other human.
How do we hold ourselves and others accountable while allowing for change and forgiveness?
The Mirage of Image
I am not what I think I am.
I am not what you think I am.
I am what I think you think I am.
Charles Cooley's century-old quote is a provocative reminder that we develop our sense of self and identity through our interactions with others. A few years before Cooley penned the looking glass theory, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about double-consciousness: "this sense of (the African American) always looking at one's self through the eyes of (white) others".* The looking glass theory has three steps that apply to all humans:
- We imagine how we appear to someone. Sometimes our imagination is correct, but it is frequently wrong as it is based on our assumptions.
- We imagine what judgments they make of us based on our appearance.
- We imagine how they feel about us, based on the judgments (we imagine are) made of us.